Yesterday, Streetsblog's Ben Fried linked to a petition on the Party's website, which is so short I'll just quote it in full:
Another Fare Hike? Tell the MTA No Way
The MTA just announced another round of fare hikes -- including a new, limited ride $100 monthly MetroCard. Enough is enough! Sign our petition to the MTA and help us reach our new goal of 5,000 7,500 signatures:
"Limited unlimited MetroCards for $100? Fuggedaboutit! The MTA needs to stop using fare hikes as a short-term fix and come up with long-term solutions to solve its budget crisis."
There it is again, that weird frame that anti-transit people use to attack government-run transit agencies. The WFP is pretending that the MTA is not a government agency, that its revenue streams aren't determined by state law, and that it has some kind of control over its income, like it can go out and take a second job washing dishes to pay off its debts or something. Congratulations, Dan Cantor! You're using the same kind of rhetorical sleight-of-hand that right-wingers like John McCain and Wendell Cox use to attack Amtrak.
This petition demands the impossible, and because it does so, it sets the MTA up for failure. It's like that stupid bully trick where the bully hits you with your own hand and says, "Stop hitting yourself!" In this case it's a tag team effort where the State Legislature is the bully, and the Working Families Party is the sidekick who gets to play the moronic - but sadistic - mind games. Stop defunding yourself, MTA! Heh, heh! Now make like a tree and leave!
Of course, "the MTA" doesn't have feelings, and Jay Walder probably has a good therapist to help him deal with the stress of running the agency. The bullies' real victims are you and me, the people who actually ride the subways and buses. When the MTA hits itself, we're the ones who get bruised.
Of course, the Legislature has been relying on the public authority structure to hide the fact that the MTA is the state that is us. The WFP knows that if they tried to hold every state legislator accountable for defunding the MTA they'd have nobody left to endorse, and if they don't endorse a large subset of the candidates they risk being seen as irrelevant, so they go along with the lie.
Unfortunately, it seems to be working. The WFP was looking for five thousand signatures, and they had more than that as of this morning. They've now raised their target to 7500 signatures, and they're at 6257 right now.
It may not be much, but I put up a counter-petition asking the WFP to deny its ballot line to those who voted to cut funding for transit. I threw it up in ten minutes, and the Petitionspot site is kind of weird, but I've already gotten 36 signatures today, with just a link on Streetsblog and a single tweet.
The Working Families Party is clearly afraid to deny its ballot line to too many candidates, because they don't want to be seen as irrelevant. I actually think it's the other way around. If they endorse only 10% of the candidates in a given year, they send the message that they've got strong principles - and the ballot line is that much more valuable to those who actually get it. On the other hand, if they endorse a candidate in almost every contest, then it becomes clear that they have no principles, that they just choose the lesser of two evils. That really lowers the bar, because all you have to do to get the ballot line is be slightly less evil than your opponents.
I kinda figured out that the WFP was a craven, spineless organization back in 2000, when a Working Families volunteer handed me a flyer supporting Hillary Clinton for Senate. I keep hoping that some day they'll grow up and figure out that it's okay to have principles and to hold others to them, and that you can wield power without turning yourself into a half-assed version of Ray Harding. Maybe next year.